Our love for design extends to fashion, and we noticed that many articles give aspiring designers do-it-yourself information on building a label, but few tackle fashion design itself.
To run a successful fashion design business, even if you out-source work, you must understand these three fundamentals; Technical Design, Garment Construction, and Pattern-making.
Check out our interview with Fashion Designer Dale Cornell.
The 3 Fundamentals of Fashion Design
1. Technical Design
If you already have a passion for fashion, you probably have many sketches of the clothing you aspire to design, but do you know what each apparel item will look like when laid flat? If the answer is no, you will need to practice looking at basic garments such as t-shirts, skirts, and plain pants.
Spread each item out on a flat surface. Pay attention to where both the structural seams and the style seams lie.
A seam is a method of binding two or more pieces of fabric together, usually using thread to form stitches. You can also use glue and other forms of adhesive. Seams can be stitched by hand or sewn by machine.
Structural Seams include side seams, armhole seams, sleeve seams, shoulder seams, crotch seams, and centre seams.
Design Seams – pockets, zippers, darts, princess seams, or any seam other than structural seams.
Practice creating a sketch of each garment the way it looks lying flat, showing details like pockets, zippers, waistband, darts, etc. These sketches are known as flat sketches. They provide a two-dimensional view of what a garment looks like when laid flat. These flat sketches help you when it comes time to make the garment pattern before construction.
2. Pattern Making
A three-dimensional garment requires a pattern, which is the garment broken down into pieces. Garment building blocks are called slopers. A sloper is a 2D version of a 3D form. It represents the basic measurements of your body, almost like a second skin. A bodice sloper, for example, shows the length, width, and shape of your torso, as well as the bust points and length of darts.
Any garment imaginable can be made from four basic slopers. These are the basic bodice (two pieces, front and back), basic fitted sleeves, basic straight skirt (front and back), and basic straight-leg pant (front and back).
Additional slopers can be made for style features like collars, cuffs, flounces, inserts, and pockets. These slopers are modified to create the style of garment detailed in the technical sketch. For mass retail garments, pattern making takes an additional step called grading in which each piece of the garment is increased or decreased to create multiple sizes.
3. Garment Construction
The technical design of a garment helps to illustrate the way it will look once created. However, you will need to know how to construct or sew the garment. There is a specific order to garment construction. Each piece of the garment fits together like pieces of a puzzle. You must know which parts to complete and in what order.
There are essentially 17 steps in the order of garment construction, starting with the sewing of any darts, tucks, and pleats in the material and ending with buttonholes and buttons.
For example, a skirt or pair of pants with a waistband and zipper closure must have the zipper sewn first, then the waistband. This is because the waistband hides the raw edges of the zipper.
These three aspects of fashion design are essential for every budding fashion designer to know. As a designer, you need not be proficient at all three, but you must have a working knowledge of each process to troubleshoot where a design may have gone wrong. Study these three fundamentals to ensure your designs come out the way you envisioned them.